Canterburry Tales: The Sower

Geoffrey Chaucer is an English writer and poet who was born in London in the 1340s and died in 1400 in that same city. His most famous work is Canterbury Tales. The Canterbury Tales are, with Sire Gauvain and the Green Knight (from an anonymous person) and Peter the Plowman (by William Langland), the very first great works of English literature. Here is the first tale: the Sower.

canterbury tales the Sower

Canterburry Tales: The Sower's Tale

The Semoneur Prologue.

  The Semoneur rose up in his stirrups;
he was so furious in his heart with the brother,
that he quivered with anger like an aspen leaf.
"Gentlemen (he said), I only want one thing,
and I implore him for your courtesy;
1670since you heard this fake brother lie,
suffer that in my turn I tell my tale!
This brother boasts that he knows hell,
and, God knows, it is no great wonder;
brothers and hell hardly separate.
Because, pardieu, you have often heard stories
that a brother was ravished to hell
certain day by a vision, in spirit;
and as an angel led him beyond,
to show him the pain we suffered there,
1680in all this stay he did not see a brother;
other kinds of people he saw enough, in torments.
The brother therefore addressed the angel in these terms:
"Now that (he said), handsome sire, such grace is given to the brothers,
that none of them come during this stay? "
- "Yes," replied the angel, "millions and millions." "
And he led him to Satan right back.
"Now Satan (he added) has a tail
wider than the sail of a carrack.
Hang up the tail, Satan (he said),
1690uncover your ass, and let the brother see
where the brothers nest in this stay. "
And in front of the hole, over a length of fifty fathoms,
just as the swarm of bees scatters out of the hive,

from the devil's ass rushed twenty thousand brothers in a troop,
and in hell scattered in all directions,
then came back, as fast as they could go,
and in the ass everyone crawled back.
The devil pulled back his tail and was silent.
1700When the brother had considered his drunk
the torments of this cruel stay,
God in his grace brought his spirit back
in his body and he awoke;
but yet he still trembled with fear,
so much the devil's ass still had in his mind
which is his inheritance by very nature.
God save you all, except that damn brother!
I will end my prologue this way. "

Here ends the Prologue to the Tale of the Semoner.
*   *
The Tale of the Sower

Sirs, he's in York County, if I'm not mistaken,
1710a marshland called Holderness.
Certain "limitour »Ran through it in all directions
to preach there, and also to beg there, no doubt.
But it happened that one day this brother
had preached in a church in his own way,
and especially, above all else,
excited in his sermon the faithful
to say thirties and to give, for the love of God,
enough to build holy houses,
where divine service be honored,
1710no where money is wasted and devoured,

nor where there is no need to give,
as to the beneficiaries, who can live,
Thank God ! in wealth and abundance.
"The thirties, (he said), deliver sentences
the soul of our friends, both old and young;
yes well, but they must be sung without delay,
and not intended to keep any priest in joy and gaiety,
who only sings one mass a day.
" Oh ! deliver, (he continued), warmly the Souls;
1730it is very hard for them to be torn with sharp fangs and irons,
or to burn and cook;
therefore hurry quickly, for Christ's sake. "
And when the brother had said all he wanted,
on a who cum patre he prepared to set off.
  As soon as the people who were in the church had made their offering to him,
he resumed his way, without wanting to stop any further,
with his satchel and his shod stick, rolling up his dress high.
In all the houses his gaze searches and snails,
he asks for flour, cheese or even wheat.
1740A friend follows him carrying a horn-tipped staff,
a pair of ivory tablets
and a carefully polished hallmark,
and, standing, he inscribes, - without fail, - the names
of all those who give him something,
almost as if he was proposing to pray for them.
"Give us a bushel of wheat, spent grain or rye,
a galette du bon Dieu or a small piece of cheese,
or whatever you like, we don't have to choose,
a little penny from the good Lord we a big penny to say a mass,
1750or give us your pork pie, if you have any;
a piece of your blanket, good lady, -
Come on, my dear sister, I write your name:
bacon or beef, or whatever you can find. "
A vigorous valet always walks behind them;
it is the servant of their host ; he carries a bag

and what is given to him he throws on his back.
And as soon as they cross the threshold of a house,
the brother immediately erases all the names
that he had just inscribed on his tablets:
1760it only serves people with nasal passages and fables.

"Nay, here you are lying, Semoneur," said the Brother.
- " Peace ! (says our host), by the holy mother of God!
Continue your tale and spare nothing. "
- "On my salvation!" (resumed the Sower), so shall I do. "

After going from house to house for a long time,
he finally reached a house where he used to
to cool off more than in a hundred places.
The master of the house was ill
and in bed, lying on a low bed.
1770Two snag (he says), Thomas, my friend, hello!
(the brother said in a courteous and gentle tone).
Thomas! (he said) God heal you! Often
I had a great time on this bench,
and I have eaten here more than a merry meal. "
So saying he chased the cat from the bench,
put down his staff and his hat,
as well as his wallet, and sat down very gently.
His friend had gone to town
with the valet, in the hotel
1780where he himself intended to sleep that night.
  “O my dear master! (replied the patient),
how have you been since the beginning of march?
It has been a fortnight or more since I saw you. "
“God knows, (resumed the brother), that I have worked hard;
and I have especially for your salvation
said many and many precious prayers,
and also for our other friends, God bless them!
I was today in your church for mass
and give a sermon according to my simple mind,
1790and which is not entirely in the text of the Holy Scriptures;
because this text is difficult for you, I suppose,

so I want to teach you all the gloss.
The gloss is certainly a glorious thing,
for the letter kills, as we say, we clerics.
There I taught the faithful to be charitable
and to spend their goods where it is appropriate,
and there I saw the lady of the house; but where is she ?
- "I think she's over there, in the courtyard,
(said the man); it will not be long in coming. "
1800- "Hey! master ! welcome, by Saint John!
(said the woman), are you going as you want? "
The brother gets up very courteously
and hugs her tightly,
and give her a tender kiss and say to her chirping lips
like a sparrow: "Madame, very well,
as a man who is your servant anyway.
Praise be to God, who gave you soul and life!
I haven't seen such a pretty woman all day
throughout the church, as true as I hope to do my salvation. "
110" My God ! (she replied), the Lord corrects our faults!
anyway you are welcome, by my faith! "
- "Thank you very much, madame, I have always noticed it."
But in your great kindness, with your permission,
I would ask you not to be upset,
if I want to talk to Thomas for a little while.
The priests are very careless and very slow
to delicately feel a conscience.
To confess, to preach I put my zeal,
and to study well the words of Saint Peter and Saint Paul.
1820I go fishing for Christian souls,
to give back to Jesus Christ his own good;
spreading his word is all my desire. "
" Well ! with your permission, dear sir, (she said),
scold him well, by the Holy Trinity!
He's angry like a pissing ant,
though he has everything he could want.
I cover it up at night and keep it warm,
and lay my leg or my arm on him,
he growls like our boar, who is lying in the stable.
1830Other deduced, I cannot expect from him;
I can not please him in any case. "

- O Thomas! I tell you, Thomas! Thomas!
This is the work of the devil, it is something that must be amended.
Anger is a vice which the God of heaven defends,
and about it I want to say a word or two:
- "Come on, master" (said the woman), before I go,
what do you want for dinner? I'll take care of it. "
- " My God ! our lady, (he answered), I'm telling you, no doubt,
when I only have the liver of a capon,
1840and a small slice of your soft bread,
and after that the head of a small roast pig
(but I would not want at any cost that an animal was killed for me),
then I would have with you the humble food which is sufficient for me.
I am a man who needs little to support himself.
My mind has its food in the Bible.
The body is always so prepared and so much trouble
to make sure, that my stomach is destroyed.
Please, madam, don't be angry
may I open my secrets to you so amicably;
1850God knows I wouldn't want to say them much. "
- "One more word, sir," (she said), before I go;
my child died less than two weeks ago,
shortly after your departure from our village. "
- "I saw his death by revelation,
said the brother, in the convent, in our dormitory.
I dare say that, less than half an hour
after his death I saw him delighted in bliss
in my vision, God forgives me!
In the same way our sacristan and our nurse saw it,
1860who have been good and faithful brothers for fifty years;
they can now, God be praised for his gifts!
celebrate their jubilee and go alone.
So I got up, and all our convent too,
many tears running down my cheeks,
without noise or clash of bells. ;
we sang the Te Deum and nothing else,
except that I made a prayer to Jesus Christ,

giving him thanks for his revelation.
Because, sir, and yod ”, madam, believe me,
1870our prayers are more effective,
and we see more of the secret things of Christ
than the laity, when they would be kings.
We live in poverty and abstinence,
and the laity in wealth and spending
of eating and drinking, and in their impure pleasures.
We hate all the pleasures of this world.
Lazarus and the Wicked Rich lived differently,
so they had different rewards.
Whoever wants to pray, he must fast and be pure,
1880and fatten up his soul and slim down his body.
We live as the Apostle wants; clothing and food
are enough for us, even if they would not be very good.
It is the purity and the fast of us brothers
which makes Christ accept our prayers.
  See, Moses fasted forty days and forty nights,
before the great almighty God
spoke to him on Mount Sinai.
It's on an empty stomach, fasting for many days,
that he received the written law
1890by the finger of the Lord, and Elijah, You know it well,
on Mount Horeb, before he had interview
with the Most High, who is the doctor of our souls,
remained for a long time in fasting and contemplation.
  Aaron who had the temple under his laws,
and likewise each of the other priests,
when they had to go to the temple
pray for the people, and celebrate divine service,
they refused to drink any kind
of drink which could intoxicate them;
1900they prayed and watched in abstinence,
for fear of being struck to death. Take care what I say:
if those who pray for the people are not sober, -
pay attention to what I say; - but enough is enough!

Our Lord Jesus, as Holy Scripture says,
gave us the example of fasting and prayer.
That is why we beggars, we simple brothers,
we are married to poverty and continence,
to charity, humility and abstinence,
to persecution for virtue,
1910to tears, mercy and purity.
And this is why you can see that our prayers, -
I speak of us, the beggars, of us, the brothers, -
are more agreeable to the Most High
than yours, with the feasts where you dine.
It's for his gluttony, not to lie,
that man was first cast out of Paradise,
and that he was driven out of Paradise, that's for sure.
    But listen carefully, Thomas, what I'm going to say.
I don't have a text for it, I believe,
1920but I will find it in some gloss:
it is especially of the brothers that spoke
our sweet Lord Jesus, when he said:
"Blessed are the poor in spirit",
And so on ; you can see the whole gospel;
aren't those of our profession more in line with it
than those who swim in abundance?
In spite of their pomp and gluttony,
and for their debauchery, I hate them.
    They seem to me like Jovinien,
1930big as a whale and walking like a duck ;
as full of wine as the bottle in the expense.
Their prayer is truly full of great respect;
when they say the psalm of David for souls,
listen: “Beu! (they say), cor meum eructavit ".
Who follows the gospel of Christ and his way,
if not we who are humble, chaste and poor,
artisans of the word of God, and not treasurers?
Therefore, just like the soaring hawk
soars into the air, all the same the prayers

1940active brothers so charitable and chaste
soar towards the two ears of God.
Thomas! Thomas! I want to lose my arms and legs,
and I attest to the lord who is called Saint Yves,
if you weren't our brother nothing would be right for you!
In our chapter we pray night and day
Christ to send you health and strength,
so that you can quickly resume the use of your body. "
    “God knows, (replied the other), that I don't feel it;
Christ takes his help from me, if, in a few years,
1950I have not spent, near various kinds of brothers,
over and over book ! yet I am no better off.
Really, I spent most of my money on it.
Farewell, my gold! because it is all gone! "
The brother left: “O Thomas! is it possible ?
what do you need to look for various brotherhoods?
What need has he who has a perfect doctor
to look for other doctors in the city?
Your inconstancy is your ruin.
Do you keep us, me or our convent,
1960insufficient to pray for you?
Thomas, that joke is not worth a farthing;
your illness is that we have too little.
“Ah! give this convent half a quarter of oats "
“Ah! give that convent twenty-four denarii. "
“Ah! give that brother a big dime and let him go! "
No, no, Thomas! it cannot be that way.
What is a farthing divided into twelve?
Think about it; anything that is one in itself
is stronger than if it is scattered.
1970Thomas, I won't flatter you, me:
you would like to have our labor for nothing.
The Most High, who created the whole universe,
says that the worker is entitled to his wages.
Thomas! I don't want anything from your treasure
for myself ; but it is that our convent
is always so zealous to pray for you
and to build the true church of Jesus Christ.
Thomas! if you want to learn to do good works,
you will find if it is good to build

1980of churches, in the life of Saint Thomas of India.
There you are lying, full of anger and anger,
whose devil has set your heart on fire,
and you scold this poor innocent,
your wife, who is so patient and so gentle.
And that's why, Thomas, please believe me
do not argue with your wife, for your sake;
and, on your faith! carries this word:
listen to what the sage says on this subject:
“Don't be a lion in your own house;
1990do not oppress your subjects;
don't put your friends on the run. "
And Thomas, I recommend him again,
beware of the enemy who sleeps in your bosom;
beware of the snake that crawls so treacherously
under the grass and stings so subtly.
Beware, my son, and listen patiently,
that twenty thousand men lost their lives
for arguing with their concubines and wives.
Now, since you have such a holy and sweet wife,
2000what do you need, Thomas, to get into an argument?
Certainly no snake is so cruel,
when you walk on her tail, not half as fierce,
than the woman when anger seizes her;
revenge is then all they want.
Anger is a sin, one of the greatest of the seven,
abominable before the God of heaven,
and leads man to destruction.
The first vicar or pastor, ignorant as he is,
can tell you that anger breeds homicide.
2010Anger is, in truth, the executor of pride.
I could report so many painful things about anger
that my story would last until tomorrow.
And that's why I pray to God day and night,
that to the angry man God give little power!
It is great evil, of course, and great pity

to place an angry man in high rank.
There was once an angry podesta,
Seneca tells us, during the term of office of which
two knights went on a ride one day,
2020and fortune wanted
only one returned home, and the other not.
Immediately the knight is brought before the judge
who said to him: "You killed your companion,
and for this I condemn you to death, without forgiveness. "
And he gives another knight the following order:
"Lead him to death, I enjoin you".
Now it happened that, as they were on their way
for the place where the condemned was to die,
the knight returned, who was believed to be dead.
2030So we say to ourselves that the best thing to do
was to bring them both back to the judge.
"Lord, (they said to him), the knight did not kill
his companion: here he is before you, alive. "
"You are going to die, (said our man), on my life!"
I mean, one and the other, and all three! "
And he addressed the first in these terms:
"I condemned you, you have to die anyway.
And you too you must necessarily lose your mind,
for you cause your companion to die. "
2040And to the third knight he said these words:
“You didn't do what I ordered you to do. "
And so he had them put to death all three.
    The choleric Cambyses was more drunk
and he took great pleasure in being a barbarian.
Now it happened that a lord of his retinue
who liked to moralize virtuously
spoke to him one day that they were between them in these terms:
"A lord is lost if he has vices,
and drunkenness is a shameful fame
2050for every man, and especially for a lord.
There are many eyes and many ears

who watch over a lord, without his knowing anything.
For the love of God, drink more moderately;
wine makes man lose miserably
its mind, and moreover each of its members. "
"You will see the opposite without delay, (replied Cambyse);
and you will prove, by your own experience,
that wine doesn't hurt people that much.
There is no wine that robs me of my strength •
2060with neither hand nor foot, nor my glance. "
And in rage, he began to drink a hundred times more
than he had done before;
and immediately, that damned angry scoundrel
had the knight's son brought before him
and ordered him to stand in front of him.
And suddenly he took his bow in his hand,
and pulled the rope up to his ear
and with an arrow killed the child on the spot:
" Well ! do I have my hand steady or not?
2070(he asked) Have I lost all my strength and all my mind?
has wine deprived me of my glance? "
What is the use of reporting the knight's response?
Her son was killed, there is nothing more to say.
So be careful how you play with the lords.
Sing Placebo and for my part I will do the same if I can,
unless he's a poor man.
To a poor man we must tell his vices,
but not to a lord, should he go to hell.
    See how the angry Cyrus, this Persian king,
2080destroyed the river of Gysen,
because his horse had drowned there,
when he was going to conquer Babylon.
He made the river so small
that women could ford it.
Hear! what does he say who teaches so well?
“Don't be a friend of an angry man;

don't drive with a fool
for fear of repenting ”; there is nothing more to say.
Now that, Thomas, my dear brother, leave your anger there;
2090you will find me as just as a set square.
Don't always hold the devil's knife against your heart;
your anger makes you suffer too cruelly;
rather confess everything to me!
- "No," (continued the patient), by Saint Simon!
I confessed this very day to my parish priest;
I told him the whole state of my soul;
there is no need to talk about it anymore, (he said),
unless I want to do it out of humility. "
- "So give me your gold to build our cloister,
2100(said the brother), for while the other men lived at ease,
we had for all food many mussels and many oysters,
so much do we save to raise our cloister.
And yet, God knows it! it is hardly if the foundations
are completed, and there is not yet a single tile
for the paving of our cells.
By God, we owe forty books for cut stones 1
Help us then, Thomas, in the name of Him who stripped hell 1
otherwise we will have to sell our books,
and if you miss our preaching,
2110then the world will go all to destruction.
Because whoever takes us out of this world,
I swear on my salvation, Thomas, with your permission,
that he would take away the sun from this world.
Because who can teach and operate like us?
And that is not new, (he added),
but since the time of Elijah or Elisha
there were brothers, - I find it in the books, -
living in charity, our Lord be praised!
Come, Thomas, to our help, through Holy Charity! "
2120And with these words he threw himself on his knees.
    The patient thought he was going mad with anger;
he would have liked the brother to go into the flames
for its falsehood and its concealment.

"What is in my possession
(he says) I can give that and not something else.
You tell me like this that I am elected from your brotherhood ? "
    “Yes, of course, (replied the brother), you can be sure of it;
I brought our letter with our seal to the lady of this house. "
    "It's good (said the man), and I want to give something
2130to your holy convent while I still live,
and you will have it in your hand immediately;
on this condition, and no other,
that you will distribute my donation, my dear brother,
so that each brother has as much as the others.
You will swear that to me on your profession of faith
without fraud and unequivocal. "
    “I swear it, (said the brother), on my faith! "
So saying he put his hand in that of the sick man.
    "See, you have my word, and I will not fail. "
2140    “Hey! well then, push your hand along my back,
(says the man), and dig well from behind;
under my butt you will find
something that I hid there in a secret place. "
    “Ah! (the brother thought to himself), it'll come out of here with me. "
And he plunges his hand to the slit of the buttocks,
in the hope of finding a donation.
And when the patient felt the brother
who groped from here to there around the hole,
he let out a fart in the middle of his hand:
2150there is no horse pulling the cart
who could have let loose a fart of such a crash.
The brother leaps up like a furious lion.
a Ah! treacherous boorish, (he said), by the bones of God,
you did this to annoy me, my word!
you will pay me this fart, if I can! "
The sick people, hearing this noise,
ran up and chased the brother away;
and here he goes, his face all angry,
look for his companion, the one who kept the provisions.
2160He looks like a wild boar,
he grinds his teeth, he is so furious.

With a resolute step, he heads towards the castle,
where lived a man of great honor
of which he had always been the confessor;
this honorable man was the lord of this village.
The brother arrives like a madman
when the Lord, seated at his table, was eating.
The brother could hardly speak a word,
finally he said: "God keep you! "
2170    The Lord looked at him and said: " Benedicite!
Now, Brother John, what world do we live in?
I can see something is wrong.
It seems to you that the wood is full of thieves.
Sit down first and say what's bothering you,
and I'll put it in order, if it's in my power. "
    “I have just (said the brother), felt an affront today,
God help you! at the bottom of your village,
such as he is in this world so poor page
who would not have an abomination
2180the way I was treated in your city.
And yet nothing grieves me so cruelly
than the way that white haired old bastard
moreover blasphemed our holy convent. "
    “Let’s see, master,” (said the lord), please. "
    "Not master, sir, (said the brother), but servant,
although I got this honor in school.
God does not like to be called "Rabbi ",
neither in the market place, nor in your large hall. "
    "It doesn't matter, (said the other), but tell me all your boredom. "
2190    "Sir, (resumed the brother), an odious outrage
was done today to my order and to me,
and so, per consequens, to all degrees
of the holy Church, of which God will quickly avenge her! "
    “Sir,” (said the Lord), you know what to do.
Don't get carried away; you are my confessor;
you are the salt of the earth and its flavor.
For god's sake, have patience

and tell me your boredom ”. And immediately the brother told him
what you've heard before, you know what.
2200    The lady of the house sat quietly,
until she had heard everything the brother said:
“Hey! Holy mother of God, (she said), blessed virgin,
is there anything else? tell me faithfully. "
    “Madam, (said the brother), what do you think of this? "
    "What I think, (she continued), God abandons me
if I do not think that the boor did act of boor.
What will I say? God denies him health!
His sick head is full of follies,
I think he's kind of frantic. "
2210“Madam, (said the brother), by God I do not want to lie;
but I have other ways of avenging myself.
I want to defame him wherever I speak,
this perfidious blasphemer, who charged me
to distribute what cannot be distributed
among all equally, the devil wins! "
    The lord remained motionless as in a dream
and in his heart these thoughts rolled in all directions:
"How did this boor have the imagination
to propose such a problem to the brother?
2220Never until this day had I heard such a thing;
I believe the devil put that in his mind.
In the cul-métrie we wouldn't find
so far a similar question.
Who could demonstrate
like what each man would have equal share
the sound or flavor of a fart?
Oh ! that madman, that shameless boor! damn his face!
    Come on, gentlemen (continued the lord, sternly),
Who has heard of such a thing before this hour?
2230To each equal share? tell me how.
It is impossible, it cannot be done.
Ah! this foolish boor, God denies him health!
The roar of a fart, like any other sound,
is only the reverberation of the air,
and goes away getting lost little by little.

There is no one, by my faith, who can judge
if it was evenly distributed.
Come on, my boor, let's see! and in what damn way
today he spoke to my confessor!
2240I certainly hold him to be demonic!
Come on, eat your meat, and let the boor play his game,
let him go hang himself, damn it! "
    Now the lord's squire was standing by the table,
cutting up meat, and he heard, word for word,
all the things I just told you.
    “My lord,” he said, “don't mind it,
I pledge the sheet of a coat that I could say
to you, sir brother, if that does not anger you,
how this fart should be distributed
2250among those of your convent, if I wanted. "
    "Speak, (said the Lord), and you will have without delay
the sheet of a cloak, by God and by Saint John! "
    "My lord, (he said), when the weather is fine,
without wind and without air disturbance,
have a cart wheel brought here in the hall,
but make sure it has all its rays.
A cart wheel usually has twelve spokes.
Then they bring me twelve brothers, do you know why?
because thirteen make a convent, I think.
2260The confessor here present, because of his dignity,
will perfect the desired number.
All will kneel with one accord
and a brother will put his nose, in this way,
very exactly at the end of each ray.
Your noble confessor, God have it in his grace!
will hold its nose just under the hub.
Then our boor will be brought here,
the belly stiff and tense like a drum;
we will seat him exactly on the wheel of the cart,
2270above the hub, and we'll let it fart.
And you will see, I swear on my head,
by demonstrative proof
that the sound will propagate in equal parts,

and also the smell, towards the end of the combs;
except that this worthy man, your confessor,
because he is a man of great dignity,
will have the firstfruits, as it is right;
is not this the noble custom of the brothers
that the most worthy of them be the first served?
2280and certainly, this one deserves it.
He taught us such good things today,
while preaching in the pulpit where he had ascended,
that I could not ask for better, to speak for myself,
than to give him the first scent of three farts;
and his entire convent would undoubtedly subscribe to it;
he conducts himself so noble and so holy! "
    The lord, the lady and all except the brother,
said Janquin had spoken on the matter
as well as Euclid or Ptolemy.
2290Touching the boor, it was, they said, subtlety
and the great spirit which made him speak as he had done;
he was neither fool nor demonic.
    And Janquin won a new coat. -
My tale is over; here we are almost in town.